KARACHI - WWF-Pakistan and Engro Vopak Terminal Limited carried out a major underwater cleanup operation at Kaio Island near Karachi on Saturday.

According to WWF-Pakistan, there is a global concern that coastal habitat including underwater habitats along the islands are seriously being affected by solid wastes originating from land based activities which includes accidental spillage of solid material in the sea or by deliberate disposal of solid wastes.

Derelict fishing nets are another serious threat to underwater marine life because such nets keep on catching and killing fish and engage in ghost fishing. Worldwide efforts are being made to undertake regular cleanup operation to remove debris from important underwater habitats so as to restore natural conditions.

Kaio Island which located near Gaddani in District Lasbela, Balochistan is ecologically a very important habitat known for diversity of the underwater marine animals. This is among the very few areas along the coast of Pakistan which has coral sand associated habitat inhabited by colourful invertebrates and a large number of fish species. Marine life around the island is seriously affected by increasing pollution on account of accumulation of debris around the island.

WWF-Pakistan being the largest conservation organisation in Pakistan has previously been involved in removal of debris from major shores along Sindh and Balochistan coasts involving volunteers from local communities, school children and other stake holders.

Engro Vopak Terminal Limited which is a joint venture of Royal Vopak of the Netherlands and Engro Corporation has been providing world class services to the growing chemical and petrochemical industry of Pakistan. The Company offers storage and handling solutions for liquid and gaseous chemicals and storage for oil products. As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, Engro Vopak Terminal Limited has joined hands with WWF-Pakistan and others partners in creating awareness among general public about the importance of marine life and conservation and protection of important biodiversity hotspot in Pakistan, Kaio Island being one of them.

In the cleanup operation at Kaio Island a number of local NGOs and coastal communities were involved. Local CBO’s Coastal Association for Research and Development (CARD) based in Sonmiani, Global Organisation for Livelihood Development (GOLD), Gaddani and Pakistan Whale and Dolphin Society were also involved in undertaking this task. Indus Scuba which is Pakistan’s first PADI Diving Centre and represents global programme AWARE which intends to prevent marine debris to enter in marine habitat under their mission “Dive against debris undertook this major cleanup operation at Kaio Island. Balochistan Coastal Development Authority and local volunteers from the coastal community have also participated in the activity.

Speaking on the occasion, Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Advisor on Marine Fisheries (WWF-Pakistan) who is also President of Pakistan Whale and Dolphin Society pointed out that Kaio Island is an important biodiversity hotspot in Pakistan which is generally ignored because of its isolated location, is under extreme threat because of debris accumulated around it because of the shipbreaking industry located near the island. Discharge of thermal effluent, entrapment and impingement of marine animals in the cooling system will be major threat for the Island.

Therefore Engro Vopak Terminal Limited has joined hands with WWF-Pakistan in making a documentary of underwater marine life at Kaio Island.

Sheikh Imranul Haque, CEO of Engro Vopak Terminal Limited expressing his view on the occasion stressed the need for accelerated development in energy and other sectors of economy as well as protection of the environment. Creation of awareness among general public about important habitats of ecological significance is crucial.

Representing the coastal communities Muhammad Anwar Mundra, Chief Executive of Coastal Association for Research and Development and Rashid Ali, Global Organisation for Livelihood Development appreciated the efforts of WWF-Pakistan and Engro Vopak Terminal Limited for highlighting the importance of Kaio Island and potential threat it is facing because of accumulation of debris. He also stated that during the cleanup operation a large quantity of debris was removed.

Mustafa Hasan of Indus Scuba pointed out that their organization is part of Project AWARE which has a united mission to combat the growing marine debris problem, more than 17,000 lbs/7500 kgs of debris was removed and reported from underwater environments around the globe.

He further pointed out that during September, 2013, 155 Dive against Debris Heroes signed the pledge to remove and report harmful debris year-round. These ocean heroes are moving closer to an ocean free of trash each time they Dive against Debris.